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"Inspiring Conservation of the Natural World."
A Community Treasure
Sunset Zoological Park, founded in 1933 by the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Board, has been a cultural and education asset to the community for over 80 years. Dr. EJ Frick, Zoo founder and former head of surgery and medicine at the Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine, volunteered to acquire, provide care for and display animals for 43 years.
The city obtained much of its original funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) for initial construction of animal exhibits, buildings and walkways. Much of this original native limestone work has been preserved, serving as educational examples of zoo and social history, and remains part of the zoo’s Master Plan.
Modernizing the Zoo
In 1980, citizens of Manhattan encouraged the City Commission to build a modern zoo. This led to the development of a Zoo Master Plan, and city approval to charge a small admission fee. All revenue generated from admissions is used for on-going zoo improvements and maintenance. This additional source of income allowed Sunset Zoo to increase its level of commitment to animal care, education and conservation. Sunset Zoo applied for, and received, accreditation by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) in 1989. The Zoo has maintained commitment to upholding those high standards, and has been reaccredited every five years since.
Today, Sunset Zoo operates in 26 of it's 48 available acres. Employing nearly 20 full-time employees and a variety of part-time and seasonal staff, the Zoo is open seven days a week, 360 days a year. Zoo operations are overseen by a range of departments including Administration, Animal Care, Education, Guest Services, Horticulture/Maintenance and Marketing/Development. In addition to funding from the City of Manhattan, Sunset is supported by two 501c3 not-for-profit organizations: the Friends of Sunset Zoo and the Sunset Zoological Park and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
In 2014, the Zoo opened Phase II of the John Woodard Memorial Gibbons Exhibit featuring an outdoor exhibit yard and a historic limestone viewing plaza. The Zoo is currently pursuing the Expedition Asia campaign; an effort to rediscover tigers, sloth bears and leopards. Community members will also have a chance to envision Sunset's future as the Zoo undergoes a Master Planning process in the coming years.